Dorset country house sale creates buzz

Treasures from a Dorset country house created a buzz at auction this week in a sale at Lawrences of Crewkerne. Two Netherlandish pictures, a carpet and a suite of Dorset furniture, formerly at Creech Grange near Wareham until its sale by the Bond family in 1975, were offered in the recent auction.Each of the pictures had been on loan to the Dorset County Museum and they drew keen enquiries from Britain and abroad. “The appealing combination of quality, rarity and good provenance always attracts collectors,” commented the firm’s picture specialist, Richard Kay. “We were delighted to offer a dramatic scene of Christ falling on the road to Calvary, attributed to Frans Francken the Younger, a Flemish painter who flourished in the early 17th Century. Unusually, the border of the subject was decorated with exquisitely painted with decorative motifs and small vignettes. This fine painting realised £6,250.”

Greater interest still was shown in a fine work by Cornelis de Man and Jacob van Spreeuwen, two Netherlandish artists working (but not together) in the middle of the 17th century. The small oil by van Spreeuwen depicted the artist seated at an easel. This was surrounded by a separate picture by de Man which showed cherubs disporting. “It is probable that the frame originally contained a mirror,” said Richard. “A painted jewellery casket, pearls, a pocket watch and other so-called `vanitas` elements adorned the lower part.” The catalogue also showed the picture on the drawing room wall at Creech Grange, photographed for Country Life in 1931.  Skilful research by a Dutch art historian confirmed the attribution and the unusual combination elicited intense and prolonged bidding, resulting in a remarkable price of £156,250.

In addition, a magnificent Feraghan Mahal carpet from West Iran, circa 1890, measuring 7.3 x 4.1m, appealed for its good colour, its large size and its intricate design. It was bought for £22,500.

A George II walnut settee and six side chairs, ascribed with near certainty to John and William Bastard of Blandford Forum, dated from about 1740. Nathaniel Bond’s own account book from 1741 and 1742 makes reference to `chairs from Blandford` and to `Mr Bastard’s bill of £14.9.0`. That seemingly modest sum was far exceeded on the sale day when the suite realised £20,000. Another Country Life photo from 1931 showed some of the suite in the library at Creech Grange.

Lawrences’ director, Anthony Kilroy, who oversaw the sale, commented that  “the local connections, matched with fine quality and condition, caught the eyes of discerning buyers. We were delighted to be able to refer to good historical background and scholarly research in order to achieve these terrific results.”

The Somerset firm’s week of sales totalled almost £1.6m with many lots attracting bids considerably above expectations.